Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta

Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta

Alysse Jacobs/Coglianese Photos/Benoitphoto.com

HRTV to Cover Rachel, Zenyatta Prep Races

One-hour special March 13 will set the table for expected Apple Blossom showdown.

HRTV will present a special one-hour live show March 13 featuring the seasonal debuts of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and unbeaten Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Zenyatta.

Entitled “The Champions Return,” the show will be hosted by Scott Hazelton and Gary Stevens, who will be live at the Fair Grounds for Rachel Alexandra’s race, the $200,000 New Orleans Ladies’ Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. It will go as the 10th race at approximately 3:15 p.m. PST. The $250,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (gr. I) will be Santa Anita’s seventh race with a probable post time of 3:40 p.m.

Team Zenyatta plans to use the Santa Margarita as a steppingstone to the the much-anticipated $5 million Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park on April 9 against Rachel Alexandra. Zenyatta was assigned top weight of 127 pounds March 7 as one of 17 nominated for the 1 1/8-mile Santa Margarita.

“She worked very well Friday morning (March 5),” trainer John Shirreffs said of her six-furlong breeze in 1:11.80 at Hollywood Park. “I had her in 1:11 and three or four. She looks like she’s on top of her game right now."

Shirreffs said that Zenyatta would probably van over to Santa Anita on March 11.

“She worked unbelievable the other day,” said her regular rider, Mike Smith. “I know it sounds funny, but I really think she’s getting better. She seems more and more focused and she couldn’t be doing any better.”

Rachel Alexandra schooled in the Fair Grounds paddock March 6 for Scott Blasi, assistant trainer to Steve Asmussen, who was on hand with the rest of Team Rachel as the 4-year-old filly made a couple of tours around the walking ring before walking through the tunnel and onto the track.

Rachel Alexandra is to have her final timed workout before the New Orleans Ladies on the morning of March 8. Meanwhile, she continues to gallop aggressively on a daily basis.

“Her gallops have been very strong,” Asmussen said. “She’s not 100% fit for this and we’re aware of that. She’s had six works in six months. But she’s a very physical horse; she is Rachel.”

Before leaving the paddock, Asmussen added: “I’m very concerned about her fitness level.”

Rachel Alexandra would be the first reigning Horse of the Year to race in New Orleans since Triple Crown winner Whirlaway took the Fair Grounds Handicap in 1942.